Winter Solstice
ESSENTIAL Teachings of the BUDDHA (pt 11):
Love, Compassion, Joy & Equanimity
Listen to this talk:
ESSENTIAL Teachings of the BUDDHA (pt 11): Love, Compassion, Joy & Equanimity (25 min.) MP3
Transcript of a talk delivered by Brother ChiSing
November 18, 2012 - Dallas, Texas

Since this is Thanksgiving week it's good to remember to practice gratitude, especially if we had any low energy during the holidays. It's really helpful to lift our energies just a little bit. And if you do lots of different practices that lift you a little bit, the effect is a lot of lift, so the most important thing is do not give up on your spiritual practices when you are at your lowest. That is the worst time to give up on all your practices, but that's also the time when you most likely will forget about your practices, which is why we practice preventatively before we get into that monkey state, because it will be easier for us to remember our practices if we've been practicing already before we get into that dark space.

So over the years I've learned all kinds of little things to do, and if you do lots of little things the effect is really wonderful and uplifting. Tonight I want to talk a little bit about the Buddha's teachings on love, passion, joy, and equanimity. These are the four qualities of the enlightened heart and so whatever we are experiencing or going through in life, bring your mindfulness back to these qualities and see how you are doing in embodying and expressing these qualities of the enlightened heart. If you just keep coming back to this heart of love, passion, joy, and equanimity, this will very much help you in your practice of mindfulness, especially mindfulness of emotions and mindfulness of mental states.

So... loving-kindness in the Sanskrit language is "Maitri." In the poly-language which is a dialect, it is pronounced "Metta." So some of you may have heard of "Metta" or "Maitri." In fact the next Buddha to come, it is said, is named Maitreya, The Buddha of Loving-Kindness and Friendliness and Friendship and Love. And so that's why our teacher Thich Nhat Hanh thinks that it might be possible that the next Buddha is not just one person but a movement of people who know how to practice loving-kindness.

And that makes sense because the word, "Maitri," "Met- Ah," comes from a root word, which also means friendship, and you can't have friendship if you only have one person. Friendship takes at least two, and so that's why Thich Nhat Hanh thinks, Well, maybe it's two. The next Buddha isn't just one person, but at least two, at least three, four, five, ten, one hundred, one thousand, one million people learning how to practice friendship with each other in loving-kindness with each other!

I like that, I like that because then, we're not waiting for someone else to save us, we are the ones responsible to save ourselves, together--not alone, but together. And so it's up to us to be the next Buddha. It's up to us to be Maitreya. It's up to us to be friendship and loving-kindness.

So what happens when love meets different conditions? When love meets suffering, love automatically expresses as compassion. And when love meets someone who was fully blessed by some joy or some good or some fortune, then love then manifests as joy; like sort of a sympathetic joy-- a joy with their joy, you see? And that is why they have these qualities of love, compassion, and sympathetic joy; they are called, "Maitri, karuna, muditah," "Metta, karuna, and muditah." It's really all just love, but it's love in its innocent, pure form and then it's love in its form when it meets suffering and it's love in its form when it meets blessing, but it's all love.

Now what is about this fourth quality of the enlightened heart? Equanimity! Well, the way it's related is that it's sort of the foundation in and the strength that allows love to be love without quickly dissipating into other similar qualities that aren't quite love. A quality that is very similar to love is lust or craving or desire or grasping or obsessive compulsive holding-on. Another quality similar to love but not quite love is codependency. And then of course, with compassion, sometimes it's just pity rather than true compassion, a kind of pity that just looks down on people that you are helping, but that's not true compassion. It's similar, but it's not quite compassion--and the same with joy. Instead of just being sympathetic joy in other's blessings, you might turn into a sort of a crazy fanatic kind of joy that goes kind of a bit hyper and manic. It's like joy, but it's not quite the kind of joy we are talking about here.

Equanimity allows all of these other qualities of love in its form of loving kindness, compassion, and sympathetic joy to be fully what they are without turning into other things. This equanimity is the space for love; it's a spaciousness that allows love and it's also a wisdom that knows that everyone has their own path and that everyone is dealing with the effects of their own karma and everyone has their own lessons they are learning and so am I. And so it allows things to be; it allows spaciousness, it allows respectfulness. Even if someone is doing something that is driving us crazy that we know is not the best way, that's their choice. I can not control everything or everyone and when I try to do that, guess what? I suffer.

So, if you want to have true happiness, practice equanimity amongst all your activities of love, compassion, and joy. You see, when we love, we want to give, we want the best for others, but if our love doesn't have the balancing quality of equanimity, then its so easy to fall into getting completely overwhelmed by the other person's needs instead of just giving from an overflow of your own heart, an overflow that starts from within.

You cannot truly love others without poison mixed in with it if you do not first love yourself and you can't even love fully until you accept the love from the Universe for you that's always there, so really, even though in traditional loving-kindness meditation, we first practice with sending love to ourselves and when we feel strong in that feeling of love for ourselves then we can move on to sending that feeling of love to someone easy to love and then someone neutral and then someone a little difficult and then someone a little more difficult and eventually being able to send love to everyone equally in all the Universe. And by the time you reach that level of love, you are a Buddha, because a Buddha is simply someone who loves every single being in the Universe without discrimination... Sounds like certain people we know, right--like Jesus and others in history and Buddha, too.

Even though, traditionally, we start with ourselves, loving ourselves, because self-love must be pure and full before we can give it to others without tainting that love, because when it's not full in ourselves, and we attempt to love, there is true love, but it's mixed, with strings. It's mixed sometimes with resentment. Giving and then when not receiving the return of that giving, it's like there's resentment and so it's a mixed bag in our loving, which is why we practice, which is why it's called, "The Practice," because we're practicing, we're practicing, we're practicing. But the insight that I received and the insight that others are receiving too is the step even before loving yourself, and that is gratefully receiving the love that's for you from others, and of course, ultimately from the source of all, whether you name that, "God," or, "Buddha nature," or, "The Universal spirit of life."

It's to know that you are loved by the source of all through the many manifestations in this world, such as the sunshine and the wind and the rain and the earth and the flowers and our loved ones and those who cared for us as we grew up, those who taught us the path of enlightenment, and we really, really, really deeply receive and know that we are so loved when we really, really, really, really know that we are the result of the givingness of billions of years of evolution and that the Universe spent billions and billions and billions of years to produce you, that is love, so the next time you have a thought about hating your life or wanting to end your life or just not feeling good about your life, just remember how much time and energy the Universe spent to produce you, and then you will know how much you are loved!

And when you know that love, then it's so much easier to love yourself and when you love yourself, it becomes so much easier to give that love to those first that are easy to love, like your benefactor or teacher, perhaps, and then someone maybe that you see at the grocery store every week, you don't know them all that well, but you start giving love to them with the same intensity that you feel from the Universe, that you give to yourself, and that you give to your loved ones, the same intensity, and then the same intensity eventually of love to those that are difficult to love in your life and eventually when you are a fully matured Buddha, your love will be so intense that you'll love all beings everywhere in the entire cosmos equally without discrimination, fully, with a heart of true love, compassion and joy.

Now, as we practice these things, sometimes there are certain qualities out there, like I said earlier, that are a little bit close to, but not quite, love, compassion, joy, and equanimity. I already mentioned that with loving-kindness, there's the pseudo-form of that loving-kindness, which would be more of a, "Kind of liking to want to have," or you give kindness and friendship to someone because there is something you want from them. But the most enlightened aspect of this loving-kindness is to give without expecting any return, and the reason why you can actually do that in this enlightened way of love is because you already know that the Universe gives you everything you need. So that's why when you can love from that space, it's easier to just love and give and not expect anything in return.

Um, but, notice I'm not there yet, so keep practicing and don't judge yourself, just notice, "Oh, well today I gave love, and it was 90% True Love and 10% I held something back..." I mean, give me some loving! All right!

With compassion, make sure it is true compassion, or is it something where you want to just show your superiority or do you just want to pity someone and look down on them although you are giving to them and helping them? Be very careful.

And be careful that love and compassion don't become a sappy sentimentality. You know, many times people sincerely give, but there's not the quality of wisdom with the giving and so sometimes we can mess things up more, right, even although we sincerely want to help. Love without wisdom, it's not always a pretty picture. In traditional Buddhist art books, sometimes they create statues with these bodhisattvas with a thousand arms and that's supposed to represent compassionate helping of others in many different ways, but if you look closer in each hand, there's an eye and the eye represents wisdom and understanding and a knowledge of how to actually help.

So us, as practitioners, that wisdom goes along with compassion; they need to be balanced, otherwise compassion messes things up sometimes, more when there's not wisdom. And then joy, another way, the opposite of joy, would be jealousy, so if the person sitting right next to you, if they were to earn a million dollars in the lottery tomorrow, notice what your first reaction is. Is it, "Woohoo-- I'm so happy for you!" or is it, "Why couldn't it have been me, that won that lottery?" as you're smiling jealously.

So again it's not about judging yourself, it's just noticing where you are at; 90% of me had full joy in their joy, but there a little 10% was kind of jealous, feeling jealous, right? So just notice and notice that here's the neat thing about mindfulness, notice what it's like next year, after another year of practice, after ten years of mindfulness practice. You will see a big difference and it will bring a smile to your face. I see a difference in my life and I think you probably do too, so that is the witness of the power and the truth of this practice.

I don't need someone preaching to me telling me this is true and good. The witness comes from the experience itself, from the practice itself. You don't need to preach to everybody about meditation and mindfulness spirituality and all that, just live it--be it, radiate it and you are the witness itself. You are the witness just by radiating it and being it! That's how we spread the good news, just be the light. You don't even have to say too much, but when the time is appropriate, just say something, of course. There are two books by one of my favorite Zen masters. The first book is A Return to Silence, but the second book is, You Have to Say Something. These are two aspects of our practice. First, come back to the truth that is found in the silence of meditation and then once you find it, then the words will come naturally when in appropriate circumstances.

Last but not least, let me share equanimity. Sometimes the quality that is a pseudo-quality of, equanimity, but not quite equanimity, is indifference and coldness and sometimes even judgment because it does partly stem from the wisdom where everyone is on their journey and everyone has their own karma. They're just eating the fruit of their past actions in this present moment and yes there is truth to that, yet here is another spin on it. Perhaps you have the karma of seeing that person suffering and now in this moment you have the choice of responding in compassion or not and depending on your response, you're creating the bad karma now (right?) or the good karma.

So we can't just say, "Well those people that were born in their little countries that are just starving to death, well that's just their karma." In the moment that you see that they are suffering and that they are aware of it, it is your dharma to act in compassion and if you do not, then you are creating the negative karma and don't even think about their karma. Be mindful of your own actions and consequences of actions. And besides, some beings come into very difficult circumstances in this life, not because they had bad karma in their past life but because highly evolved beings choose to go into situations to bring light to those dark situations. So you cannot judge. So those people, and I've met some of them, it's like, "Well, you know, it's their bad karma, you know, just..." No, you don't know that; you've got no right or understanding to say such things.

So really your only practice is, when seeing suffering, loving-kindness responds as compassion, not as indifference. When seeing blessing, love's response is joy, not jealously, and holding it all in spaciousness and wisdom is the peace of equanimity so that we don't get overwhelmed by all of the suffering and blessings, the ups and downs of life, that we can stay centered through all the different experiences of life, and that is the greatest gift that we can give to the world. When we can be centered and calm and strong and peaceful in the midst of all the chaos of the planet, that is our greatest gift and let me tell you, some big shiftings and changes are coming up-- some big chaos is about to start!

We have the ability to be a gift amidst the chaos, to be a beacon of light, a beacon of oasis, calm and peace and centeredness and inner strength for all of the people of the world in all of their own personal and planetary chaos, but remember, like I said earlier, it's more about preventative medicine-- don't wait 'til everything is all crazy, start now and practice! Start now and support the center! Start now and give and be community, be Maitreya, be the Buddha of love and friendship, now, don't wait! Now is the time!

And it starts with gratitude, to receive mindfully, appreciating all that is so positive and good in our life, now--not putting happiness off to the future, not putting happiness off to just a goal, but creating the habit of finding happiness now, now, now, now. And guess what, if you can be happy now, you can be happy later too, but if you cannot develop the habit of being happy now, even in the future, when you realize certain goals, we still won't be happy, because that part of you habituated to keep pushing happiness to the future. Even though you might realize your goals, you still can't be happy, because there's this part of you that's always pushing farther and farther away, just out of reach, so don'yt do that!

Find happiness now, be that happiness, and help other people find that too. So that is the practice of compassion, love, joy, and equanimity starting with the practice of gratitude. See, gratitude and mindfulness are not separate; they are just two sides of the same reality. Gratitude always leads to more mindfulness and mindfulness always leads to gratitude.


Transcribed by Jessica Hitch

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